I’ve always been somewhat uncomfortable with my Western privilege.
I sometimes feel guilty that I have so much choice before me when it comes to career. Yes, I want to do something meaningful. Yes, I want to make a difference. But deep down, I wonder if I’m just wasting a lot of time looking under rocks for some sort of all-encompassing “purpose” that I’ll never find. That I’m over-complicating things in my quest for meaning and in my desire to pursue my passions.
I’m aware that people all over the world have virtually no choice as to how to make a living. And then there’s the grass-is-greener-on-the-other side thing. Am I just looking for a better, more meaningful and fulfilling career because I’m wildly prone to discontentment?
The Tension of Wanting a Job You Love
I’m not alone. Millennials care about meaningful work. We follow our passions. We put people and fulfillment before profit.
Our generation in particular has been told from birth to pursue meaningful and creative work paths. To “do what you love.” The idea is that you live simply, intentionally and meaningfully. Though you may not get rich, you’ll be happy and whole—and be fortunate enough to turn a hobby into a career. This makes for a lot of entrepreneurs, freelancers, artists, artisans, writers, bloggers, singers, actors and YouTube stars.
Some say this idea is destructive—that it forgets that not everyone is so fortunate to have the chance to actually choose how to make a living. Others say that as Christians, we do have the ultimate liberty to do what we love because part of Christian belief is that in Christ, God redeems our desires.
The conversation had me going around in circles. I was seriously fraught. Should I indulge my passions and hold out for that dream job? Or should I get a tolerable job to make a living? Should I think bigger, aim higher, shoot for the stars?
‘Doing What You Love’ VS ‘Loving What You Do.’
I finally settled on switching the saying around to “love what you do.” Not everyone has the financial freedom to be able to do what they love. But everyone has the freedom to worship God through their work—and to do it wholeheartedly.
Though of course we should pursue our passions, some of us simply won’t be able to live out our dream jobs for a variety of different reasons. Some of us do have steep bills, family obligations and pressure to work two jobs. Some of us may never afford to do what we love as a singer or an artist. And none of us will be able to love what we do all the time.
But all work is worship. Whether cleaning up pet vomit, designing fashion swatches, painting houses, pushing paper or writing a screenplay, we can have the attitude that God has put us there. His hand is over us. You are His child.
It may seem too good to be true, that pixie-dust element to our faith is actually rock-solid. “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart,” says Colossians 3:23. “As working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Those “human masters” include ourselves, and that shaming inner voice telling you that you’re wasting your life by not having a bigger, better, more “meaningful” job.
This was earned on the Cross, and you can never have to outgrow it. So even if you’re not necessarily doing what you love, love what you do.
One Final Thought
I was about to wipe the dust off my hands, and walk away from the issue, happy with my neat little solution, until I spoke with an older, wiser mentor about it.
“Is a job a legitimate object of love?”
In one simple question, he had uncovered what was missing in my focus and in my attitude. Whether it’s about “loving what you do” or “doing what you love,” my attitude was in the wrong place. Because love, as a verb, is really meant to be directed toward people and toward God. Everything else is a distant second.
We throw the word “love” around a little too loosely. I love fishing. I love fashion. I loved that movie. But love is a sacred thing—the core of God’s very being, according to 1 John 4:8. Our primary desire, our primary fulfillment actually comes when we love God with all our hearts, minds and souls, and when that overflows to people. Loving your job isn’t a bad thing, but loving God through your job is a holy calling.
So really, my attitude shift from “do what you love” to “love what you do” to realizing my job or career shouldn’t be about me at all just came full circle to the simplicity of the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
God had the answer for me all along, all tightly wrapped, though not always neatly packaged, pristine in timeless wisdom. There it was, smack in the middle of a secret place we call the Bible.
Though we can’t always do what we love, and we won’t always love what we do, we can pursue those God calls us to love first and foremost.